‘Annie Hall’: One of the Last Beautiful American Films of the Pre-Blockbuster Era

Woody Allen and Gordon Willis on the set of Annie Hall directed by Woody Allen, 1977. Photo by Brian Hamill © Rollins-Joffe Productions, United Artists

It was April 1978 and a whole gallery of Hollywood stars was seated at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. Star Wars, the movie that swept the audience away and was considered a heavy favorite in the Best Picture category, turned out not to be the film that left the deepest mark at the ceremony. Even though George Lucas’ sci-fi classic left the gathering with six Oscars, it was Woody Allen’s romantic comedy Annie Hall that took home the Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay awards. It was the first comedy since Tom Jones in 1963 that got the Academy’s most prized recognition, but Annie Hall‘s meaning, influence and stature aren’t built upon that surprisingly successful evening at the Oscars. After all, Woody Allen, who dismissed attending the ceremony because “he couldn’t let the boys down” at Michael’s Pub on the East Side, where he played the clarinet with the New Orleans Marching and Funeral Band, later refused to attribute any meaning to this award, considering the Academy too inept to decide on the quality of films. His co-star Diane Keaton, on the other hand, was absolutely thrilled, believing Annie Hall to be her most significant work up to that point in her career. It’s been forty years since the film premiered, and after a very enthusiastic greeting from both the audience and the critics, its reputation has only continued to grow over the years. The story of a failed relationship between a neurotic, babbling, over-analyzing Jewish New Yorker who falls for a younger, complex and similarly neurotic girl was nothing that cinema goers could have seen before. An intelligent, witty, often hilarious comedy with an ingrained layer of sadness and poignancy, Annie Hall marked a real breakthrough for Woody Allen, the filmmaker who had previously done solid work (Sleeper, Love and Death), but none that managed to capture the audience’s attention and emotions like this one. The beauty of Annie Hall is exactly this unexpected and refreshing blend of humor and melancholy; from the beginning of the film it’s obvious to us the relationship under the spotlight didn’t last, so we join Allen’s iconic (and a lot of people think autobiographical) character Alvy in his process of analyzing what exactly went wrong in the connection he had with Annie Hall, a quirky, intelligent woman who becomes the love of his life. The fact that it’s a lot more serious than Allen’s previous films, more coherent and focused, resulted in quite an impressive box office results, as Annie Hall, with its 40-million-dollar haul, remains Allen’s biggest hit if we adjust the numbers for inflation. The audience found it easy to relate to the characters because Allen, along with his co-writer Marshall Brickman, decided to make a film that radiates with humanity and deals with the topics close to the hearts of its intended viewers: love, loneliness, insecurity and the gradual disappearance of infatuation in a relationship a lot of people find hard to accept.

Funnily enough, Annie Hall didn’t start out as a film focused on a relationship. Allen and his writing partner Brickman first developed the idea of doing a light-hearted murder mystery, after which the concept changed to work first as a Victorian England-set comedy and then a comedy of romantic errors called Anhedonia, a word which means the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable. It was later that Allen and Brickman landed on the Alvy—Diane relationship as the pivotal aspect of their film, with the main idea of Anhedonia transferred to Annie Hall’s protagonist and narrator. “The whole concept of the picture changed as we were cutting it,” Allen later explained, seemingly dissatisfied with the film and the fact that people insisted on the autobiographical aspect of the picture. Diane Keaton’s real surname was Hall and her nickname was Annie, and since she’d been in a relationship with Allen, with whom the character of Alvy Singer has plenty in common, everybody assumed that what Allen did was shed light on his and Keaton’s relationship. Keaton didn’t care—she was very pleased with the way the film turned out and didn’t mind one bit that the audience put the equals sign between her and the unforgettable character she played. Either way, Annie Hall left quite an impression, a modern intelligent comedy that could stand alongside the best works of classic Hollywood, a film bursting with exquisite dialogues, witticisms and stylistic innovation, as Allen employed a variety of fresh tricks from up his sleeve, such as using the split screen, adding subtitles for illuminating inner thoughts of his characters and the frequent breaking of the fourth wall to engage the audience directly.

The film was shot by one of the greatest cinematographers the United States had ever had. Allen turned to Gordon Willis, the man to whom the seventies’ cinema owes a great deal of its visual appeal. Annie Hall was edited by Allen and Sidney Lumet’s frequent collaborator Ralph Rosenblum (The Pawnbroker, The Producers, Sleeper), with very little music used in the film. What stands out are two songs performed by Keaton herself, a wonderful addition to the beloved actress’ career-defining role. Although Annie Hall obviously influenced a series of filmmakers in the years that followed, such as Rob Reiner (When Harry Met Sally) or Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer), who tried to emulate Annie Hall’s best qualities, it’s interesting to note that the film’s influence managed to spill out of the limited world of filmmaking into life itself, or to be more precise, Annie Hall had a huge impact on the fashion of the late seventies, when thousands of women chose to copy the eponymous character’s quirky look. Quotes from Annie Hall are still uttered all around us, even by people who had never even seen the film, and every smart and witty romantic comedy we see these days inescapably makes us think back to 1977, when one of the last beautiful films of the pre-blockbuster era was made in America. Annie Hall was Woody Allen’s first masterpiece and definitely remains his single most representative work so far.

A monumentally important screenplay. Dear every screenwriter/filmmaker, read Woody Allen & Marshall Brickman’s screenplay for Annie Hall [PDF]. (NOTE: For educational and research purposes only). The DVD/Blu-ray of the film is available at Amazon and other online retailers. Absolutely our highest recommendation.

 
Annie Hall by Marshall Brickman. Courtesy of the Criterion Collection.

Over the years I have had a recurrent nightmare in which I am summoned to a large, unfamiliar building in a middle-European satellite country (Bulgaria, perhaps) to tell the idea of Annie Hall to the Bulgarian Minister of Green Lights, or whoever he is. The guy heavily resembles Brezhnev on both his father’s and mother’s side and speaks no English and hasn’t had his lunch yet; and the deal is, I have to get him to approve the story; if he doesn’t, not only won’t the movie ever get made, but I’ll be required to live out my life in a 1950s-style brown Bulgarian suit, working as a clerk in the Bureau of Cinematic Promises, a vast tomb in the basement containing millions of unproduced screenplays. The dream never really ends (my nightmares rarely have satisfying climaxes), it just kind of dissolves into a tighter and tighter push-in on the impassive face of the listener as my frantic, shrill voice-over cross-fades into the alarm.

None of the above is, of course, true (I never have nightmares, as I never sleep); nevertheless, the notion of taking the script of Annie Hall—or, more frighteningly, just the idea for the movie—to a rational studio head (never mind a Bulgarian) and requesting millions of dollars to realize it on the screen is sufficient to induce a kind of nightmarish panic, even years after the movie was made and released.

Talking to the camera? Breaking the fourth wall? Cartoons? Atrocity footage? Who’s your target audience—Solzhenitsyn? Come on, guys, what’s the story, what happens, who wants what? Where’s the action? There is no rational reason why the movie should have been as successful as it was. It violates just about every formal rule of cinema (and, for that matter, drama) you’d care to bring up. The Greek unities? Hardly; the story moves around in time and place more than a Robert Heinlein novel. A strong antagonist, thwarting the main character at every turn? Not exactly. (The story, essentially a search for the answer to the question: “Why Did my Girlfriend Leave Me for Somebody Whose Values are the Total Opposite of Mine?” is not exactly the equivalent of the quest for the Holy Grail or even the Lost Ark.) A compelling, intricate plot? Serviceable might be more appropriate. Stylistic consistency? OK, if you can find a word to characterize something which contains cartoons, voice-overs, direct-to-camera monologues and asides, subtitles, black-and-white archival footage, and special effects; not to mention the expected, naturalistic scenes of plot and character development. Plus which, nobody gets killed, nothing explodes, no car is seriously demolished (just a dented fender in the parking lot). The whole idea seems rather hopeless.

There were, mercifully, no pitches, no “input,” no meetings other than those between the authors. Woody’s contract at United Artists (a company built on the refreshing premise that a certain amount of artistic risk is necessary in order to remain in business) allowed us the necessary leeway for our odd little conceit. It also didn’t hurt that our previous effort, Sleeper, had achieved a decent success. How we actually wrote the script is a matter of some conjecture, even to one who was intimately involved in its preparation. I recall countless conversations on diverse subjects; dialogs pirouetting and leaping from the Holocaust to Bertolt Brecht to Henny Youngman to the Essential Nature of the Novelistic Form, specifically the Novel of Memory, and is there a Cinematic Equivalent; to why girls with very large breasts are always sexy no matter what.

 
I recall Woody saying, on one occasion, when I expressed some doubt about the commerciality of the project—which is to say, did we want to be associated with something that would bankrupt a very nice bunch of guys?—I recall him saying, wisely, that the only sure thing in life is that you shouldn’t repeat yourself; that if you’re a real artist you have to take the leap, and if it turns out to be off a cliff, at least you can enjoy the view on the way down. Plus which, he added, the really breakthrough idea—the one truly worth doing—is never the one that seems sure-fire; it’s invariably the idiosyncratic idea; the one that’s never been tried before, the one you’re a little uncomfortable with. Like, I suppose, Godard with Breathless: the jump-cutting, violating accepted screen reality. Or Kubrick, with 2001, that strange, almost-plotless, oddly shaped space-mystery (with highly mixed reviews, let us not forget) which nevertheless turned out to be a watershed for twenty-five years of science fiction films. Plus which, he went on, the artistically original idea can also (though not always) be a commercial breakthrough. So, armed with this prophetic but scary insight, we plunged ahead.

As to the precise method of work and the contributions of the two authors: I tended at that time (over a decade ago) to be more deliberate, concerned with structure, symmetry, construction: form—the refuge of the novitiate. Woody would graciously endure my endless exhortations to logic and plausibility and then casually suggest that perhaps the way to get the character out of the room would be, say, to have him flap his arms and fly out the window. “But people can’t fly by flapping their arms like pigeons,” I’d reply, meaning it. The above exchange is rather half-baked and does no real justice to the scope of audacity of his particular imagination—and of course has nothing to do with Annie Hall—but countless exchanges like it taught me an invaluable lesson, which is, to paraphrase a line of dialog from the movie: you can be an intellectual and not have the foggiest notion of what’s really important. A movie like Annie Hall obviously doesn’t come from an adherence to Ibsenian structure; what it does come from is harder to pin down: a wildly original point of view, an intuitive grasp of what will work onscreen, a healthy impatience for what’s not entertaining, a rage against your basic Sacred Cows and a need, as Jerry Lewis once said… to puncture them.

The first cut of the film was, I recall, about two hours and fifteen minutes. The release print is 94 minutes, including titles and end credits. What was excised in the editing process was primarily material which, while funny (to the authors, anyhow), distracted from the emerging tale of Annie and Alvy and the pull their relationship seemed to be exerting on the story. The editing process became a search for how to use that relationship as a spine on which to hang all the other observations and material dealing with life as it was back then in New York, in the rosy 1970s. The surprising thing to me is, after viewing it again: it all seems intentional, each scene inexorably leading to the next; whole, inevitable in its style and rhythm. And with an emotional kicker that I’m not sure was ever in the script. And all this in spite of the deleted forty-five minutes—a tribute, I think, as much to Woody’s consistency as to Ralph Rosenblum’s editorial expertise.

One thing does seem clear after a decade: as a catalog of broken rules, the film seems less of a stylistic breakthrough than a summing up: of attitudes, styles of dialog, dress, even styles of cinema. In freezing these microscopically accurate embodiments of a particular sensibility, operating at a particular place and time, the movie earns, perhaps, some historical significance and a place in the Criterion catalog. —Marshall Brickman

 
“Whereas Annie Hall was just endless—totally changing things. There was as much material on the cutting-room floor as there was in the picture—I went back five times to reshoot. And it was well received. On the other hand, the exact opposite has happened to me where I’ve done things that just flowed easily and were very well received. And things I agonized over were not. I’ve found no correlation at all. But, if you can do it, it’s not really very hard… nor is it as tremendous an achievement as one who can’t do it thinks. When I made Annie Hall, there were a lot of suggestions that I make Annie Hall II. It would never occur to me in a million years to do that. I was planning to do Interiors after that, and that’s what I did. I don’t think you can survive any other way. To me, the trick is never to try to appeal to a large number of people, but to do the finest possible work I can conceive of, and I hope if the work is indeed good, people will come to see it. The artists I’ve loved, most did not have large publics. The important thing is the doing of it. And what happens afterward—you just hope you get lucky. Even in a popular art form like film, in the U.S. most people haven’t seen The Bicycle Thief or The Grand Illusion or Persona. Most people go through their whole lives without seeing any of them. Most of the younger generation supporting the films that are around now in such abundance don’t care about Buñuel or Bergman. They’re not aware of the highest achievements of the art form. Once in a great while something comes together by pure accident of time and place and chance. Charlie Chaplin came along at the right time. If he’d come along today, he’d have had major problems.” —Woody Allen, The Art of Humor No. 1

This fascinating documentary captures Allen not long after his Oscar success with Annie Hall and the release of his follow-up movie Interiors. Made for French TV in 1979 by Jacques Meny, and actress/journalist, France Roche, this documentary takes the neurotic King of Comedy through his childhood, early career, and success as writer filmmaker. Though the voice over is French, Allen’s interview is in English. —Paul Gallagher

 
A gem from 1977, Carolyn Jackson interviews Woody Allen in conjunction with the release of his classic Annie Hall. Conversation topics include which hat Allen prefers to wear (writer, actor, or director), audience appeal of his films, his unusual feelings toward promoting his films, and why he finds television to be “soul deadening.” The interview concludes with a discussion of Allen and Jackson’s shared love of playing the clarinet and why they will not be scheduling a date to perform together.

 
“But with a film, it’s not really written beforehand. It’s written during the filming. Let’s say I decide I want to do a scene in a pet shop. All I need is a note that, say, Diane Keaton and I meet in a pet shop. I don’t need the dialogue at that point. Then we find the pet shop and decide how we’re going to shoot it. Then the whole scene is written there. Not just improvised but actually writ­ten there. The tone and atmosphere is determined, the amount of noise—everything. By contrast, the text of a play bears a very direct relationship to what you see on the stage. If you look at a film script and the movie itself, the movie is often nothing like the script. If you gave this pet shop scene to me and to Bergman and Fellini, it would come out totally different. It would be like three different movies. So writing for film is not exactly writing. You’re just sort of making notes and you’re constantly anxious about what it’s actually going to be like and where is the thing going to be shot. You can’t actually write it until you know about the location and what actress is going to play in it and so forth. Sometimes I’ll get a good run on dialogue when I’m writing, and other times not. Sometimes I’ll just think of one joke and I’ll try and set it up in the film. For example, I did a scene in Annie Hall with Paul Simon. We improvised and I just said to Paul: Try to get to the word ‘mellow’ eventually because I have a joke I want to tell.” —Woody Allen, Creators on Creating by Robert F. Moss

Mark Cousins’ Scene by Scene BBC series consists of detailed, incisive discussions in which film directors analyse key scenes from their film output. Those interviewed include such famous names as Brian De Palma, David Lynch, Bernardo Bertolucci, Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demme and many others. Presented in a lively and accessible manner by Cousins, the series will appeal to the general viewer and those wishing to learn about the craft of filmmaking. Woody Allen talks about his obsession with death, if personal issues affected his movies, and how his film rarely live up to his own expectations: “The cool thing about the show is that they play some scenes from Allen’s catalogue and gets him to comment on them. Mark Cousins presents plenty of reservations. In particular he brings up interesting criticisms of Allen. Negative comments we’ve never heard before from Billy Wilder, Sam Shepard and Michael Caine. He even manages to give Allen the big question about how his private turmoil affected his films. It’s also amazing how much he remembers of making each film, like the very first day of filming Annie Hall. Of course, the show replays some of greatest scenes in Allen’s films. It’s a very open and frank discussion, and well worth watching.”

HOW TO WRITE A SPLIT SCREEN SCENE: ‘ANNIE HALL’

“If the split screen dialog between Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in Annie Hall seems perfectly timed, of masterful cadence, that is because it was filmed in the same take, the actors next to each other. They built two adjacent therapists’ offices for this. Allen, of course, could have spliced the disparate takes into one, but the organic, however inefficient, way of doing this aids the subtly.” —Jimmy Chen, On Therapy

This extract from Annie Hall shows how Woody Allen went on filming the split screen wrote on the script. Read the full article on mentorless.com

 

‘ANNIE HALL’: PRACTICAL THERAPY

With Annie Hall, Woody Allen made several decisive moves that would change the direction of his career and the craft of his art. Up to that point, Allen made flat out comedies. He wanted to make people laugh and he did. It was what appeared to be his genius. Yet it was a precursor of the genius to come. His early films harkened to the Marx Brothers and Bob Hope pictures of his childhood and yet still had room to deal with his preoccupation with mortality, sex, politics and the inherent hardships of finding and keeping love. These were themes that he explored in several genres but themes that were grounded by a slapstick sensibility. He was still fundamentally playing for laughs and he was succeeding. Big time. All of his pictures were turning a profit. But Woody wanted to grow as an artist and in 1976 he would co-write a film with Marshall Brickman that didn’t just play for laughs. A film about a relationship and how those moments of falling in love can upon dissolve become nothing more than a memory of “old times.” Funny stuff. Not since Chaplin had a comedic writer/director taken such a risk by changing the form of a comedy and in the case of Annie Hall a romantic comedy into a romantic comedy drama.

One of the more startling production choices Allen made was hiring Director of Photography Gordon Willis.

When you think of a romantic comedy you don’t immediately think, “let’s hire ‘The Prince of Darkness’ to light it!” Gordon Willis was one of the world’s greatest cinematographers. His work on The Godfather and Klute cemented the thesis of “there is just as much in what you don’t see as in what you do.” He also had a reputation for being stern on set, some might even say grumpy. Upon their first meeting, Gordie and Woody became fast friends and brothers in cinematic arms finding a commonality in the “less is more” approach to filmmaking.

One scene in the film was written as an optical effect in the script yet achieved practically on set and in-camera. It’s the scene in which Annie and Alvy are in their respective therapist office speaking of one another. This was written to be shot on two sets and an optical split screen would marry them. Willis suggested to Woody that they should play the scene practically and build one set with a divider creating the illusion of two offices. Also, this would help Allen and Diane Keaton with their performances. Instead of a script supervisor reading the lines to them, they had each other’s energy to feed off of. It’s theatrical staging in aid of the cinematic effect, which is seemless, and all captured on one negative.

Gordon Willis and Woody Allen would go on to collaborate and compliment each other on Interiors, Manhattan, Stardust Memories, A Midsummer’s Night Sex Comedy, Zelig, Broadway Danny Rose and The Purple Rose of Cairo. —Will McCrabb, Annie Hall: Practical Therapy

THE GORDON WILLIS INTERVIEW

In the fall of 2006, Globe reporter Mark Feeney talked with Gordon Willis at his Falmouth home about his life and work. Here is a transcript of his conversation with the acclaimed cinematographer. Great interviewee, great interviewer, one brilliant interview all around. Photo credits: Brian Hamill/Getty Images.

Continuing the comparison of the director-cinematography relationship to a marriage, what about when it ends? Did you and Woody Allen just go in different directions? How does something like that end? Was it awkward?
It was very pleasant working with Woody. It was like working with your hands in your pockets. By the time we were finished Purple Rose of Cairo, which I think was the last movie we shot together, then I was in California doing other movies, and I was doing movies between his movies, though that didn’t happen much because he was overlapping a lot there. I think he felt at the end, he’s another one who works very well in concert with people, I think he felt at the end that, although we were comfortable and it was all working really, really well, he felt upended in a way. I was really making decisions about a lot of things that made it a lot easier for him to function. The outcome was always consistently good, but I think he felt he was getting smaller and smaller and smaller from the standpoint of making the movie. It’s possible that he felt that way. We’re still friends. It ended nicely. But it was enough anyway. Ten years.

It’s interesting when you look back. He’s amassed such a body of work. But in terms of sheer visual creativity, look at the movies he did with you: Manhattan, Stardust Memories, Zelig, Broadway Danny Rose, Purpe Rose. They’re all so distinctive. You don’t think of Woody Allen as a visual director?
Right. Well, he’s not.

But, boy, these movies just—
—no, he’s not. That’s the problem. That’s the reason he hired me to begin with, with Annie Hall, because he wanted to do something else. But then that something else turned into something he didn’t have much control over anymore. Although he was fine with it, he just felt [shrugs], you know what I’m saying. But he’s still my favorite guy to be around. Working with him was very easy.

Favorite guy anywhere or just on a set?
Anywhere. But I rarely socialize with directors, nor with Woody (although we go to dinner every now and then). That was fine, with everybody except Francis.

There’s a quote from the interview you did for the book ‘Principal Photography,’ “Most art, if you want to call film an art, comes out of craft.”
Yeah. I’ll expand on that. Somebody will say, “How did you do that?” Well, you know, it’s not really “how” you do something that’s important, it’s “why” you do it. It’s what you do and why you do it that’s important, I said; then how becomes part of the chain. “How” is your craft. It’s something you should know and learn and then, like paintbrushes, you pick up what you need to do what you do. But you can’t transpose an idea without your craft. The natural thing for someone to do, we all tend to reduce or expand things to a level that we understand. But what you’re doing is you’re avoiding your ability to function [laughs]. You can really function well if you reduce or expand. They may hire you for that. But the real meaning of it is, like the guy who doesn’t really know how to light so he keeps reducing things so he doesn’t have to light, “Let’s shoot it on the lawn.” So bottom line is: You do have to learn your craft. A lot of kids shoot movies, they don’t shoot the movie. They have no ideas. What they do is go out and shoot everything, put it together in film school, then they try to make a movie out of it. That goes on with people who should know better, who are making money.

 
In all the years that you’ve worked in movies is there any one person who most impressed you? It doesn’t have to be a cinematographer.
Anybody right? I have to make a general response. I don’t love actors. I like them, and I work with them, but I don’t love them. But to answer your question, I have to say that some of the people who’ve done things I most admire have been actors. Some of them have been just stunning, they just knock you off your feet. I feel I’ve been moved by things actors have done. I’m always impressed by somebody who does something well. They make it look easy. That’s one thing about great actors, they make it look easy. It’s difficult to stand up in front of 40, 50 people. Of the cluster of finery that is making a film, I’d say that is the best, watching them. And, of course, the more you watch the more you learn. It doesn’t look as though they’re doing anything, but on the screen it becomes something so remarkable. You learn that from them.

You can be a great actor on stage and if you do that exact same thing for a camera it’s horrifying.
Right, exactly. So I learned a lot from them, based on dealing with them, just visually.

Are there movies that you wished you’d shot? Either you watched and felt you could have done a better job or wished you’d accepted a script? Or do you just do what you do and move on?
Yeah, do I what I do and move on. This is stupid, there have been a lot of very good movies about World War II, but I’ve always wanted to make a movie with a bunch of Germans running around and a lot of intrigue. Those kinds of stories I’ve always found interesting, really fascinating. I never had an opportunity to do any of them. From day to day, I guess when I go to a movie and think, “Geez, I wish I’d shot this,” it’s primarily because it’s an interesting movie. Not because it has anything to do with visuals. I’d just want to shoot it as a wonderful movie, an interesting movie.

As you look back, are there specific elements in a script that would be likely to attract you?
Yeah. Most of the scripts I like are a little crooked. That’s how I put it. The things I enjoy all tend to be a little crooked or a little off. I have a tendency if something doesn’t feel that way when I begin to work on it, I’ll bend it that way. Just trying to present it in a way that’s more interesting on certain levels. Woody was always open to things being a little bit off. It would sort of appeal to both of us at the same time. We’d set up these shots where he and Keaton were talking back and forth. I’d say, “Okay, you leave, we let you go. Then we’ll leave her on the screen, you’re talking off screen, then you come back in and then she leaves. So you’re exchanging places.” “But you won’t see me?” “Yeah, but we’ll hear you.” That’s more entertaining and more eccentric. I could have just put them both in the room. So when those opportunities are there, and he’s a very special person from that standpoint because he could shoot a scene that ran a block and a half. Those things appeal to me. I ‘ll suddenly throw that into the mix because I find it better, to my mind, better. Things off screen can either be very mysterious or very, very funny, depending on what it is you’re doing. So what you don’t see can work well. Think of Fibber McGee and Molly’s closet. Same thing. Radio had a lot of great stuff. Yeah, what you don’t see.

A lot of people are obsessed with seeing when they make movies.
Yes, it’s a visual medium. But it’s more interesting to me, for instance, when a man and a woman are in a room, playing a scene, I don’t know what the content is at this moment, but let’s say we put the woman in the corner over there and you can’t see her. Maybe you see her feet, but you don’t see her. And you put this guy by the window. They’re talking back and forth. You see him talking to her, then at the very end, possibly, she steps out and you see her. So you see what’s on her face from the discussion that just went on, but until that time you don’t see it. I find things like that far more interesting. In fact, in President’s Men [guffaws], the first time we did Hal Holbrook as Deep Throat down in the garage, I said, “You know what we should do, it would be interesting if we don’t see his face at all.” Well, anyway, Alan was so frightened by that whole idea that I said, “All right, we’ll put a little light on his eyes so we could see a little bit of his face.” Redford liked it, Holbrook liked it. Then that’s the way it stayed for the rest of the encounter. He became so frightened over the fact that we wouldn’t see anything. But I thought not seeing anything except for the cigarette would be more fun. But not too many people have enough, I don’t worry about it. I just think it’s a good idea. People worry so much about not what they think but about what other people think. —Gordon Willis

 
Here are several photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. Production still photographer: Brian Hamill © Rollins-Joffe Productions, United Artists. Intended for editorial use only. All material for educational and noncommercial purposes only. A special thanks to Eyes On Cinema.

 
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